When you wake up to a day filled with sunshine and "Blue Skies", it seems reasonable to think that it will be a good day. Blue skies is a sort of synonym for clear sailing, good times, happy days, and so on. But we all know that it's no guarantee. The people of Haiti can't help but know that.
Natural disasters are generally related to bad weather....hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, floods, lightning fires, blizzards....all occur with clouds, heavy precipitation, wind and the like. You can look up at the sky and get a pretty good idea if there is bad weather ahead, the barometer too gives information when the weather is going to spawn some huge "something" that will wreck havoc on lives and property. Weather forecasting has evolved so it is possible to know that even the really bad situations are on their way. Anyone who has ever been in a tornado knows that just before it starts, the sky and atmosphere take on a greenish color and things go still.
None of those disasters happens out of nowhere, anyone with even a little common sense, can take the cues from the sky and surroundings and get to shelter. You can protect yourself, your family, your possessions to some degree.
Not so with earthquakes. They come out of nothing but tectonic disruptions that are hidden far below the surface. There is no siren, no radio or TV warnings of impending disaster, no Paul Revere riding through town yelling a warning, nothing in the sky to hint at what is to come. All of a sudden nothing is solid, nothing is safe, nothing is standing still. Huge buildings collapse, 100-year-old trees are uprooted, homes become matchsticks, autos disappear below the ground, roadways undulate like roller coasters, and people die, lots of people die. And it happens in less than a minute! That's all it takes, less than a minute, to completely devastate an entire city. And then there are aftershocks as well for several days after, when the shaking starts again and brings heart-stopping fear that nothing will ever be safe again.
The earthquake that flattened Haiti last week was rated at 7.0 on the Richter Scale, that measuring device that explains just how bad it was. That 7.0 rating indicates a very bad earthquake. The rating system in and of itself says a lot about earthquakes. If I understand it correctly each point on the scale represents an increase in intensity by a multiple of ten! A 6.0 earthquake is pretty scary to be in, lots of property damage but not too many injuries or deaths. A 7.0 earthquake demolishes almost everything and the numbers of injuries and deaths increases exponentially.
I lived in California from 1991 to 2000 and never experienced anything more than a level 4.7 temblor. Nothing was damaged that I know of. The worst that I saw with my own eyes was our dining room chandelier beginning to sway for no discernible reason. But even that was scary. I missed the horror of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco; but who could ever forget the photos of the collapsed double-decker freeway in Oakland? Nevertheless for the nine years I was there, the ground stayed right where it belonged.
The reports and photos coming from Haiti are so far beyond anything we have ever seen, it is almost unbelievable. Building after building in rubble, bodies lying in the streets, the injured bleeding on the ground with no one to care for them, people displaced from their homes wandering aimlessly up and down the streets looking for heaven knows what or who! Depending on which report you see, the death toll could range anywhere from 20,000 up to 100,000 people killed or fatally injured in the few seconds it took for the earthquake to totally annihilate Port-Au-Prince, the capital city.
The fact that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world makes everything so much worse. The people have no money with which to buy food or water or shelter, but for once it doesn't matter, as there is no food, water or shelter to be had! With the devastation so widespread and indiscriminantly affecting everything, there is not much official infrastructure left to try to help the people. Also its a peninsula (water on three sides), which means getting there is a problem too. The only functional airport is congested with planes trying to come in to bring aid, and planes trying to get out with survivors from other places.
After several days, outside aid is beginning to filter in. The first bringing food and water, which are needed desperately. But its a long process and just getting the people fed will take a while. Hundreds of buildings need to be torn down due to their unsafe condition, more bodies will be found, shelters will have to be devised and clean water will have to be restored. Of course, this all takes money. In such a poor country with so few resources of its own, most of the assistance must come from outside of Haiti. These people need help. This isn't about politics, or religion, or terrorism, or partisanship, its about giving where there is NEED.
As you can see, I have posted a donation link to the Red Cross to help them fund their relief effort. Please use it! Or use some other mechanism for giving what you can so that it gets where it needs to go.
Earthquakes can be the most devastating natural occurrence on our planet. They make us realize just how insignificant man and all his technology really is. We cannot predict, prepare, or prevent earthquakes from striking without any warning at all.
And it matters not one whit, that there are "blue skies".
Special thanks to my friend, Liz, for the inspiration. Please go to her site, for more info and for blogs describing current conditions in Haiti.